I realize this might come across as a bit self serving but that’s ok. Part of working with charities is trying to find that middle ground to keeping the work we offer affordable AND effective. It’s a fine line sometimes.
If I’m asked to design a direct mail piece, I often know the rough total cost and how long it will take me because I’ve been doing it for a long time. But I also know the design is reactionary. I read the brief, and the copy if I can, then I react in an emotional way and hopefully that comes through in the design. Also, 99% of the time, there is no budget or time to sit around pontificating about things. Read, react, design. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about things – I do. Is the type big enough, clear enough, does it suit the subject matter or audience, does it say something clearly, do we need a visual, one colour or four, is the logo big enough, will there be room for all of that copy, what are we saying, what do we want the donor to do, does this have impact, will the donor open the envelope, etc. You may be only paying $800 for that direct mail pack but you are getting well over a decade’s worth of doing, testing, looking, asking, experience.
Logos on the other hand are totally differnet.
It’s the challenge of creating something that is memorable, communicates an idea, visually defines and sums up what a charity does, maybe who they do it for, gets across what a event is for, etc. It’s the challenge of finding the right sort of font that is appropriate to the charity and it’s donors (Can you imagine Apple using Comic Sans for all of their marketing?), the right type of visual that distills everything your charity stands for.
It’s not easy and it’s a lot of work. It takes time, talent, patience and concentration.
Can you get a logo for $50? Of course you can. Just take a look right here.
But I can’t do it for you. Most professional designers can not do it for you.
My first step is brainstorming all of the sorts of adjectives, verbs and nouns that might be associated with your charity or event. I can easily spend a few hours – as all of these words help define the sorts of visuals that might work. I look at the name of your organization. What does it say, what do we want it to mean. Who is your audience? Who are your donors? What do we want the name to say to them. I start to typeset the name of the organization over and over, in typefaces that may be suitable. Some fonts have a lot of personality – or the good ones do. All the while remembering, what does it say? What do we want it to mean? I would love each of my clients to have custom fonts that they could use for their logo and marketing – but at the very least, when using an off-the-shelf font, I find ways to make it unique by tweaking some of the characters.
Next comes the visual brainstorm. I go back to my list of words and start to use them to discover ways I can visually express them. Again I may make another list of words or just quick thumbnail drawings of ideas. This is the real time of discovery. And often there is no end. I just keep pumping out idea after idea, all very quick, not stopping to censor myself or my ideas. If I see something I like, I may try to approach it from different angles – “How can I express time? What are the visual clichés to express time? How many different ways can I show or communicate a clock?” Over and over. There is no perfect idea here.
Once I’ve completed this process, it’s time to start putting some of these elements together. Most designers use a program called Adobe Illustrator to design logos. Illustrator is a vector based program (as opposed to a raster based program like Adobe Photoshop) which allows us to control the number of colours and most importantly, makes what we design scalable. As I start to marry visuals and typefaces, the logo starts to come together – but it is also another period of discovery as you try to make the type fit into and with the visual. Maybe the type is the visual. Maybe the visual is the name of the charity. Maybe you need both. Again, I just want to keep circulating the ideas. This is not the time for tweaking and art directing – making sure everything is perfect. And as I work, I find new ideas forming and as I put one concept together, I move onto another. This process can be endless. There is no ONE solution. And it usually ends when your time is up and actually have to present some concepts to the client.
I select 2-4 ideas that I feel work the best and present them to you, the client, as black only files. Why? I want you to focus on the concept. I don’t want to talk about how you don’t like blue.
Part Two – next week.